Seeing is believing when it comes to many medical diagnoses, and that often necessitates invasive surgical procedures, X-rays and radioactive dyes. But what if you could just use a camera?

Medigus, an Israeli company that specializes in developing innovative endoscopic devices and procedures, has teamed up with Tower Semiconductor to produce the world’s smallest medical camera.

The device, which measures 0.05 inches in diameter, can be incorporated into endoscopes so that doctors receive a direct visual of even the narrowest lumens (cavities or channels within tubular structures) in the body. This would eliminate the need for invasive surgeries, X-rays and other costly and sometimes risky procedures.

Mounted on a disposable endoscope, the camera is also cheap to produce and doesn’t need to be sterilized after each use.

Medigus has sent out samples to various companies and hopes to begin mass distribution in the first quarter of the coming year.

The demand is already there, says Adi Frish, chief of business development at Medigus, adding: “We’ve been receiving requests on a large scale from device companies in different fields.”

Direct visualization for reliable diagnosis

Frish tells ISRAEL21c that a further advantage of using the camera is reliability. On an X-ray, doctors can only see black and white components; with dyes, they see an assemblage of colors. In contrast, cameras offer direct visualization for a much more reliable and complete diagnosis.

“Our device will provide physicians with more reliable visualization data on the status of the patient or organ,” Frish asserts. “It’s direct vision, so you can see the actual lumen, the actual body from the inside.”

That kind of specificity, says Frish, “will help the patient and physician by leading to safer, smoother procedures.”

Founded in 2000 by company CEO Dr. Elazar Sonnenschein, Medigus has pioneered endoscopic technologies for the treatment of gastro esophageal reflux disease (known more colloquially as heartburn).

Applications for the new tiny camera could include treatments for the ear, nose and throat. A camera could be inserted into the nose, obviating procedures that require that the patient be put under anesthesia.

Gastroscopy, a complex examination of the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum, that currently requires anesthesia, could become a simple process that takes just a few minutes.

A major breakthrough

The new camera is important, explains Frish, because “in the endoscopic world, the camera is the key component. The smaller the camera, the more latitude you have to mount different tools on the endoscope, such as a light or stapler. We identified that need, and with our capabilities we embarked on a project to develop this new camera.”

The technology is based on the CMOS sensors found in digital cameras, which are produced by Tower.

“It’s a very complex technological achievement, both to produce such a small sensor, as well as to assemble such a small camera,” remarks Frish. “In a camera you have objective lenses, and you have to assemble all the electronic components together into the wire. It’s a very difficult thing to achieve.”

With its potential to cut costs and risks to the patient, as well as its greater reliability in diagnostic procedures, the new camera may well have a significant impact on the entire field of medicine.

“It opens up a very interesting hatch from which physicians and companies can launch and develop new procedures,” concludes Frish, “and that’s a major breakthrough.”

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